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Two sons of Hussein buried in subdued Muslim ceremony

AL OUJA, IRAQ — AL OUJA, Iraq - Once accustomed to sprawling marble palaces and a nation under their thumbs, Odai and Qusai Hussein were buried early yesterday in simple graves on a patch of sun-scorched desert, remembered in a subdued Muslim ceremony attended only by relatives and followers who were able to sneak past a U.S. cordon.

Two mounds of earth covered by the Iraqi flag and marked with roughened slabs of desert rock became the final resting places for Saddam Hussein's sons, who died July 22 during a five-hour assault by U.S. forces in Mosul in northern Iraq. Qusai's 14-year-old son, Mustafa, was buried alongside his father.

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The solemn ceremony, however, was soon followed by a renewal of the recent pattern of increased violence against Americans, as two U.S. soldiers were wounded by what appeared to be three remote-controlled devices that exploded under their passing convoy in nearby Tikrit.

Late Friday, a soldier was killed and three were wounded in a rocket-propelled grenade attack on their 4th Infantry Division convoy in northern Iraq. With that death, at least 52 U.S. soldiers have been killed in attacks since President Bush declared major combat over May 1.

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Also Friday evening, someone standing on an overpass in Baghdad dropped a bomb on six 1st Armored Division vehicles in a convoy. U.S. troops fired back, killing an Iraqi woman standing in the area, the military said.

Resentment of the American presence in Iraq was also evident at yesterday's ceremonies in Al Ouja. Led by a local imam, about 100 distant relatives of the Hussein family gathered to pay their last respects to the sons of the deposed Iraq leader, said relatives and friends who attended.

One witness said Iraqi guerrillas, Hussein family bodyguards and fedayeen paramilitary fighters mixed in with the crowd.

Relatives said they were searched before being allowed past a U.S. military checkpoint near the gate to the cemetery near Tikrit used by Hussein's tribal kin. Other followers were barred, but some slipped past soldiers through holes in walls through a grove of nearby trees.

"They are not prophets, they are not God, but they are heroes and martyrs," said Aheyaz Daham Al Muslit, whose grandmother is Saddam Hussein's aunt. "A lot of people will come and visit. I intend to stay here for a month."

The burial of the brothers came as the top U.S. official in Iraq told reporters that several hundred foreign fighters have returned to postwar Iraq to carry out attacks against U.S. forces.

L. Paul Bremer III, the American diplomat who is running Iraq, said the fighters belong to Ansar al-Islam, a shadowy "al-Qaida-related terrorist group" that was attacked during the war by U.S. forces in northern Iraq. He said some of the fighters escaped to neighboring countries and are returning to Iraq.

"We are doing everything we can to track them down and deal with them," Bremer said.

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Bremer said Hussein loyalists, in combination with Ansar al-Islam and other foreign militants, remain the most serious threat to the 145,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

However, Bremer said he expected the recent death of Hussein's two sons - and the eventual capture or death of Hussein - to reduce the number of attacks.

"I believe it is only a matter of time before we get him, but I'm not going to say when that time is," Bremer said. "In any case, dead or alive, Saddam Hussein is finished in this country."

Bremer also said he could not put a timetable on when U.S. and other coalition forces might withdraw from the country, explaining that such a decision could be made only after a sovereign Iraqi government is in place.

He said the Iraqi Governing Council, the country's coalition-appointed advisory body, told him last week that the process leading to a constitutional convention could begin as early as this week, with elections possible by next year.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. Wire reports contributed to this article.


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